5 Common Types of Workplace Harassment

workplace investigations vancouver

Are you facing a tense atmosphere in the office and wondering how you can improve your culture, address lingering issues, and bring everyone back on track? Harassment in the workplace is a less than pleasant topic, but the unfortunate reality for many businesses and organizations across Canada to consider is that it can happen in your environment. Whether you find yourself facing outright accusations or complaints, or have suspicions that a negative atmosphere may create a slippery slope for other bad behaviour to bleed into the workplace, the time to address workplace harassment and set appropriate processes and guidelines to prevent it is now.

At Pivot HR, we know that dealing with harassment, both proactively and in response to claims can often feel daunting and overwhelming. With team members feeling the immense strain of pandemic life over the past few years, today’s workforce is experiencing a unique (and unfortunate) level of strain. If you’ve begun to see the signs of discord and are wondering if you may be dealing with an actual harassment issue, below are 5 common types of workplace harassment to be aware of. Read on to learn more!

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment has become a significant focal point within the human resource field, as well as the public discourse over the past few years with movements like #MeToo shining an important light on this pervasive issue. In legal terms, sexual harassment in the workplace occurs in the event of an employee receiving sexual advances or threats from a peer or person in a position of power or authority. Sexual harassment is a broad category, with a wide range of behaviours falling under its umbrella whether they are physical, verbal, or even visual. From unsolicited flirting to unwanted touching, making inappropriate comments or jokes, to pressing for intimate knowledge of colleagues, sexual harassment can cause serious problems in the workplace for the parties directly involved, as well as for the entirety of your staff and overall culture.

Failure to take appropriate measures to prevent and address sexual harassment in your workforce can lead to costly pitfalls for employers and lead to a significant disconnect among team members who feel increasingly uncomfortable in the office. In addition to following all mandated guidelines regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, it’s important to set clear boundaries with employees and ensure that your culture gives those who feel uncomfortable the chance to speak out and be heard whenever harassment happens.

Personal Harassment & Bullying

One of the most common issues is personal harassment and bullying. While it can be as overt as blatant insults, threats, or putdowns, it often takes a far more subtle approach when it begins to manifest. Signs of it can often be found in cliquey behaviour, where one employee may seem to be particularly alienated from co-workers who go out of their way to be avoidant and non-supportive. If you notice early warning signs and a sense that there may be some issues among your team, it’s important to bring attention to the matter right away and have some honest, objective conversations with your team to discern what’s going on.


Despite diversity and inclusion is at the forefront of concern for many leading companies these days, discrimination is still a significant issue faced in our workforce. Discriminatory harassment involves belittling or attacking someone based on their race, age, sex or other personal background information. Whether the result of unconscious biases or outright malicious intent, any behaviour that minimizes or attacks an individual or group based on their identifiers and the personal background needs to be addressed immediately.


Physical harassment is extremely volatile and explosive, ripping holes in your culture and ruining morale in its wake. Physical harassment involves unwanted, often violent acts against another employee. Punching, slapping, pushing, throwing objects and even damaging another’s property can all be considered physical harassment and should not be tolerated under any circumstances.


Constant belittling, gaslighting, taunting and mocking can take a profound toll on someone’s mental wellness, leaving them with psychological damages that take plenty of time to recover from. Such acts are abusive, and a hallmark of psychological harassment. Like bullying, psychological harassment can be harder to spot, meaning you’ll want to be extra vigilant to spot early signs of issues before they have the chance to spread.

Addressing Claims

Even with our best efforts in place, harassment does, and likely will continue to occur in the workplace for quite some time. At Pivot HR, we know that dealing with HR matters, including workplace investigations, cultural restructuring, and even termination in the event of a harassment claim can be profoundly stressful for businesses and organizations, as well as for the employees involved. If you find yourself facing direct investigative needs, or needing help rebuilding after an unfortunate experience, our team is here to assist. With decades of experience behind our team and a wide range of HR services designed to ensure you have everything you need to educate, reform, and rebuild, Pivot HR is proud to support businesses and organizations across Canada as they build for a better tomorrow. Contact us today to learn more how we can help you get back on track, and help create the happy, healthy, environment your team deserves!

Learn More Now!

What Our Clients say about us

Read more testimonials